Kalakuta is live, yet static film roll of Fela’s life and essence, in rebranded magnificence.
He would have been 80 years old yesterday. In some ways, Fela might have been the quintessential table shaker of his time, but he’s as important today as he was then.
He’s not just a musical icon either, he was a pop culture pinnacle that was ahead of his time and for that, his genius and daredevil appetite defined his path and created a legacy.
You cannot be a legacy if you play it safe.
Kalakuta Republic was Fela’s home at Idi-Oro, Agege road, Mushin Lagos, where he housed his family and band members and where the madness and legendary things went down. It was where he created a diversion from FESTAC “77, that became a global spectacle.
It was the enclave that housed global superstars like Stevie Wonder, who grew addicted to the drug that was Fela’s eccentricities within its bowels.
It was where Paul McCartney smoked the best weed his life. It was where Mama Olufumilayo Ransome Kuti was maltreated by zombies of the Nigerian military — ‘scars’ from which she never recovered.
It was there that Fela got arrested on multiple occasions for fighting for Nigeria’s liberation from the military core tearing it apart and mortgaging its future on the platform of power.
It was also there that his $1 million proceeds from a record deal got carted away by members of the Nigerian military. The sands of Kalakuta document Nigerian history.
If only sands could talk… If only musings of the sand could be translated into plain text. It can’t…
However, from what we see, we will document the importance of a Kalakuta to any visitor and what they scream in hushed voices to tourists who hope to feel the soul of Fela through such visits.
You will feel the soul, albeit a recreation. But here are the five things you’d notice on a visit t Kalakuta Republic;
1.) Props: the mock art of his shoes, music instruments, statues in regalia, family portraits
Asides that, he was music and enjoyed a somewhat close relationship with his family. His idea of living centred around nonconformism.
The fundamentals of that are exemplified by the props you find at Kalakuta.
2.) Fela’s Grave
On the day Fela died was buried, I was but a lad, but I remember how his body was left for people to see in a glass coffin — if memory serves.
In some ways, I only had a rudimentary knowledge of Fela’s music, but playground rumors amongst 5-year olds about unfounded embellishments or even total fabrications will shock you in my generation.
Asides India vs. Nigeria madness, you heard rumours that Fela bought a whole airplane to transport vegetables and greens to shame military leaders.
In a lot of ways, that moment probably told me something I wanted about my life. They didn’t allow children in, but my mother somehow found a way.
Seeing his grave is surreal, but so are tombs that are now home to great men. His resting place will definitely fill you with some kind of emotion.
3.) Fela’s Room
Fela’s room is a collection of artsy eccentricities of a Maverick and the carefully selected items of a connoisseur. The man was attractively complicated, but that was the entire attraction about him.
Though his room has been embellished with extra detail, you still feel some closeness to Fela in that space, especially when you hear tales from a familiar folk while in there.
You see his clothes, his shoes, his bed, and other things. It’s like a curation of the finer things that soared in worth through genius.
4.) Paper cuttings of Fela’s political exploits as an activist
Fela feared nothing and that made him dare some mad things. He was the daredevil who couldn’t stomach what his people suffered, so he dared death.
Reportedly, some Kalakuta boys even beat some errant members of the Nigerian Military, which brought hell on Kalakuta. Fela lost his money, his freedom and started losing his mother that day.
Those cuttings highlight the different things Fela did to stand out in his generation. How he found the strength is still beyond me.
5.) The Fela Essence
People like Fela have a spirit and with that comes an essence, nigh a culture that rarely dies.
Fela lives in and even in the walls of Kalakuta in 2018, a walk will tell you they’re laced with the essence of Fela, sometimes, you almost reach out and touch it.